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How biogas can support intermittent renewable electricity

Part of Today in the Lab – Tomorrow in Energy?

Today in the Lab – Tomorrow in Energy? shines a spotlight on research projects under development in the Technology Collaboration Programmes (TCPs). Learn more about the initiative, read the launch commentary, or explore the TCPs.


What is the aim of this project?

This project aims to explore strategies and technical aspects to use the flexibility of biogas facilities to facilitate the integration of intermittent renewable electricity in a decarbonised energy system. Renewable electricity provided by solar or wind power varies during the day as the weather changes so it needs to be balanced with complementary energy systems that are dispatchable – available when needed – at any time of the day or year. Biogas systems can be operated in flexible mode to match electricity demand; the dispatchable renewable heat produced at the same time can also be used to meet seasonal heat demand. Biogas may be integrated with “power to gas” systems that use hydrogen from electrolysis to upgrade biogas to biomethane, acting as a biological battery when there is an oversupply of intermittent electricity. This flexibility provided by biogas systems can improve energy utilisation in the grid while reducing losses.

How could this technology be explained to a high school student?

When natural organic matter such as organic wastes, agricultural wastes or agricultural crops are broken down (digested) by a process known as anaerobic digestion, they produce biogas and digestate, a co-product that can be used as fertiliser. The biogas is often used to produce heat and electricity. It can also be converted to biomethane, which can be fed into the natural gas grid or used as vehicle fuel. Biogas systems can stabilise the electricity grid when solar and wind energy becomes more widespread. Biogas is a versatile renewable energy source that can be used to replace fossil energy carriers within electricity, heat, gas and transport fuel markets.

What is the value of this project for society?

  • improves the flexibility of biogas systems, which provide a renewable energy source for different energy sectors
  • provides strategies to balance solar and wind power using biogas
  • helps to replace natural gas with renewable gases in grids. 

At what stage of development is this project?

The project started in January 2019 and is expected to end by December 2021.

What government policies could bring this from the lab to the market?

  • rewarding dispatchability to match supply and demand in the electricity grid
  • valuing other services provided by biogas systems (e.g. waste processing, organic fertiliser)
  • implementing strategies to develop the renewable gas sector.
Agricultural Digestor In Belgium

Agricultural Digestor In Belgium. Photo: Luc Pelkmans, Bioenergy TCP


Partners

  • DBFZ (Germany)
  • MaREI centre / UCC (Ireland)
  • VTT (Finland)
  • Other members of the Bioenergy TCP Tasks 37 and 44.

Funders

  • Bioenergy TCP membership
  • Other strategic in-kind contributions by the participating organisations.

About the Technology Collaboration Programme on Bioenergy (Bioenergy TCP)

The aim of the Bioenergy TCP, created in 1976, is to increase knowledge and understanding of bioenergy systems in order to facilitate the commercialisation and market deployment of environmentally sound, socially acceptable and cost-competitive low-carbon bioenergy systems and technologies, and to advise policy makers and industrial decision makers accordingly.

Contact: pbuckley@odbtbioenergy.com; https://www.ieabioenergy.com